Published: 12:08, 23 September 2021
| Updated: 13:34, 23 September 2021
Stunned shop owners have hit out at the sudden closure of a town centre car park.
The Park Mall car park in Ashford closed yesterday – less than 32 hours after warning signs were put up.
Today, workers have been removing the NCP signs from the 300-space facility, while barriers have been set up to prevent entry.
Russell Geen, who runs the Little Teapot in Park Mall with his wife Jacqui, said he was "shocked" at the sudden announcement.
"It's shocking that nobody had any notice, barely even 24 hours," he said.
"The car park at County Square is now not going to be able to deal with the volume of traffic that the Park Mall car park was taking.
"I know when I’ve parked in County Square, sometimes we’re on nearly the top floor. That’s just on a Saturday, let alone with the added Park Mall traffic.
"And it's not like people are going to do park and ride even if they introduced one like they have in Canterbury."
The council-run Edinburgh Road car park next door to the centre remains open.
It has a total of 289 spaces including 24 disabled bays. The hourly rate is £1.20, with a £5.50 charge for over four hours.
The hourly rate at the Park Mall car park – which ABC has owned since last year – was £1.60, with four to 24 hours costing £5.60.
Also run by NCP, the County Square car park charges £2.50 an hour, with six to 24 hours costing £10.
An Ashford Borough Council (ABC) spokesman said: “Following a financial restructuring of its car park portfolio, NCP has decided that it no longer intends to run the Park Mall shopping centre car parking facilities.
“We are currently in discussions with NCP and we will be able to give further details shortly.”
Mr Geen said: "It's very bad communication, the council shouldn’t have allowed NCP to shut so suddenly.
"Why on earth would they let this happen? Unless they’ve got other plans which is they’re going to run it, I don’t know."
It included plans to "transform" Bank Street, and the continued redevelopment of Elwick Place.
In the document, town centre regeneration manager Hannah Clayton-Peck mentioned "suggested plans" that the Mall will "one day become a new residential community within the heart of the town".
"In this instance, independent businesses will be offered opportunities to move to the Bank Street area," she said.
"The residential offer will house a variety of different people and become key footfall generators in their own right which will, in turn, will support the transformed Bank Street area and beyond.
"At Park Mall, the provision of a new multi-storey car park or utilising the existing one will be explored as a means of providing more footfall generation and to help anchor and deliver the aspirations surrounding the Bank Street area."